First, a pronunciation guide for a player you’re obviously going to need to get to know, a player who might have just had the best offensive day in the grand history of the Miami Dolphins.
“Need to pronounce your name right. I heard it was A-chain,” I said to De’Von Achane late Sunday afternoon. Long “a,” with “chain.”
He said no. “It’s A-chan.”
Okay, we’ve got that down now. Miami’s third-round rookie back from Texas A&M is De-von A-chan. He’s 21. He rushed 18 times for 203 yards in a 233-yard rushing/receiving day with four touchdowns. There’s nothing normal about a 70-20 football game, when a player 94 percent of the country (maybe more) has never heard of has a game like this, when Tua Tagovailoa is 16 of 16 in the first half and no one notices, when Raheem Mostert and Achane both tied the single-game team record with four TDs in a game, when the home teams gains 726 yards and calls off the dogs at the end … or they could have scored more points than any team in a game in the 104-year history of the NFL.
“That’s what I’m saying!” Achane said over the phone from Hard Rock Stadium Sunday. “On the sidelines, we were all talking about it. Like, ‘This is really crazy! This has gotta be some type of record.’”
Actually, two players have never combined for eight TDs in a game before, as Achane and Mostert did. There were 13 team records set or tied, and Miami came within two points and 10 yards from setting NFL records in each.
But I found a couple of things significant about the game—other than the fact that, holy crap, you do not want to be playing Miami right now.
One: Mike McDaniel usually talks to the team pre-game for some last reminders, as coaches tend to do. But this new-wave coach wants the Dolphins to be a player-led team. He had fullback Alec Ingold talk to the team before this game. Nothing Rockne-ish was said, but the message was sent: I trust you guys.
Two: McDaniel is seen as an odd genius type, and he probably is. (Certainly the stuff about his offensive brain is top-of-NFL right now, as was illustrated by Tua Tagovailoa’s no-look designed shovel-pass TD in the first half.) But this is also a coach who has significant love for the game, and the history of the game. He knows it would have seemed crass, bordering on bush-league, to run up the score just so the Dolphins could break a couple of records for points and yards. If you’re not doing it in the regular competition of the game, why do it? Miami ran into the line twice, then did a kneel-down, on its last series.
“It’s not the way you want to get the record,” he said post-game. “I would hope that if the shoe was on the other foot, the opponent would feel the same way. That’s called karma. I’m trying to keep good karma with the Miami Dolphins.”
Karma’s good. Finding an explosive weapon like the 5-8 Achane with the 84th pick in the 2023 draft is better. “Me having 200 yards in an NFL game, that’s a shock to me,” Achane said. “But I think I showed the type of back I am. I don’t think people knew about my toughness, running between the tackles, taking hits. People think I’m an undersized back and can’t take the hits, but as you can see I can take them. I can pick up blocks.”
Every week there’s a new team to shoot for in the NFL. Last week it was Dallas. This week, it’s Miami that’s the dangerous, dangerous team.
If Sean Payton can lose a football game by 50, if Jacksonville can fall to Houston by 20 at home, and if Taylor Swift can feature in this column prominently, well, we know it’s an absolutely normal NFL season. Because, as usual, nobody knows nothin’. The boldface people and things of week three:
Perfection. Pretty hard to achieve. By midnight tonight ET, assuming the Eagles and Bucs do not tie, the NFL will have three unbeaten teams: 3-0 Miami, 3-0 San Francisco and the 3-0 winner of Philly-Tampa. Five perfectos bit dust Sunday.
The Dolphins. Two running backs down, Jaylen Waddle down. Three of their five starting skill players were Durham Smythe, River Cracraft, Raheem Mostert and Alec Ingold. And Miami, beating Denver at home, became the first team to score 70 points in a game since the AFL and NFL merged in 1970. Dolphins by 50. We all saw that coming.
Josh Dobbs. Sunday was the one-month anniversary of the trade that left him stunned, Cleveland to Arizona. He looked like he’d been a Cardinal for years, not four weeks, against the formerly unbeatable-looking Cowboys. Arizona by 12. We all saw that coming.
C.J. Stroud. Another huge ‘dog Sunday, Houston, snuck into Jacksonville (Remember? My top AFC seed?) and won by 20. We all saw that coming.
Taylor Swift. Yes, T-Swift, jumping and cheering in a box with Donna Kelce, her heart evidently all a-flutter watching her rumored new beau Travis Kelce at Arrowhead. You Need to Calm Down, Taylor; it’s only September. Patrick Mahomes on the more famous person in the stadium Sunday, to FOX: “I heard she was in the house, so I knew I had to get the ball to Travis.” Seven catches, 69 yards, a TD.
The Bears! The Bears! The Bears! Chicago entered the season with so much hope. Maybe hope to go 9-8, and solidify the QB spot for years. But this team, and its equipment, and its quarterback, and its ex-defensive coordinator, are watching a Cruel Summer morph into a cruel autumn. They’re 0-3 and Justin Fields might be hurt. This Bears team, again, looks like the favorite for the first pick in the 2024 draft. I remember it All Too Well.
Caleb Williams. Just thought of this. Would choosy Caleb Williams exit USC if his NFL fate lay in Chicago? It’ll take someone Fearless to turn this ship around.
Zach Wilson. Anti-Hero. Bad Blood with 70,000 at the Meadowlands. All the Patriots had to do was score Fifteen for win number Fifteen in a row in the series.
(I give! Enough! Not funny! Back to our regularly scheduled programming!)
Matt Gay. Kicking on the turf of the man who could go down as the best ever to kick a football (Justin Tucker, M&T Bank Stadium), Gay had the greatest day an NFL kicker’s ever had. Four field goals of 53 yards or longer, including the winning 53-yarder in OT for the first-place Indianapolis Colts of the AFC South.
Jordan Love. Remember all the trashers of Love before the season? After coming back from 0-17 in the fourth quarter to an 18-17 win, Love said he remembers. “I don’t get flustered by anything I hear or anything that’s out there. Who are they to tell me who I am as a player?” Good attitude to have for a 2-1 player.
Puka Nacua. He gets introduced to National TV America in the Monday nighter at Cincinnati. Bet you can’t guess his first position in youth football. Give up? Left tackle.
Buddy Teevens. Every coach, and every fan who cares about the future of the game, needs an education about the late Dartmouth football coach. You’ll get it in this column.
John Lynch turns 52 today. He chose careers wisely, despite what the scouting reports apparently said.
Brock Purdy. It’s amazing to me, after he begins his career 11-0 in games he’s played at least three quarters, that there is this universal asterisk on his competence. More ridiculous than amazing, really.
Patrick Mahomes will do something this week for the first time in his life. Guess what. It’ll make you say, You’re kidding, right?
Miami at Buffalo. Great game of the week in week four. Dolphins have a schneid to break. They’re 1-9 in the last 10 against the big, bad Bills.
Let’s start with the first NFL win of C.J. Stroud’s life.
The stories that stood out to me Sunday:
Stroud handled the heat wonderfully in Jacksonville. Remember all the stuff about C.J. Stroud struggling to process information under pressure, and without the supporting cast he had at Ohio State, he’d struggle in a relative startup in Houston? I take you to Jacksonville, with the Texans having trouble running it Sunday, and even more pressure on the shoulders of the rookie in his third NFL game. I watched good chunks of this game, and Stroud’s performance under pressure in the 37-17 rout of the Jags was notable. NFL NextGen Stats backed that up. It was Stroud’s composure against the blitz that was crucial in Houston winning this game.
When blitzed in Jacksonville Sunday, Stroud completed eight of 11 throws for 130 yards and two TDs. When facing a regular rush, he was an efficient 12 of 19, without the difference-making TD plays. Add to this the fact he had two injury replacements at tackle and didn’t get sacked, despite the 11 blitzes from Jacksonville.
“I think I just learn from week to week,” Stroud told me post-game. “A lot of the sacks and hits that happened last week were on me. I gotta get rid of the ball, get it out on time. This week, I think I fixed that issue.”
Watching Stroud (20 of 30, 280 yards, two TDs, no picks, 118.8 rating), it seemed like he had more answers for what the Jags threw at him than young quarterbacks should have. Maybe we expected the learning curve, and the rebuilding process in Houston, to take longer. He didn’t think the word “rebuild” was one his team places much stock in. “We’re grown men,” he said. “We’re NFL players. Why can’t we win any game we show up to play? That Jacksonville team’s a top 10 team in the NFL, but we knew we could play with them. I’m nobody’s fish. I’m not somebody a team can tee off on. I compete. We all compete. The way I look at it, all pressure is a privilege. It helps me prepare, it helps me win. I love it.” It showed Sunday in Jacksonville.
You could see during the game why Stroud and fellow rookie Will Anderson were named captains. It’s not just their pedigree. With Stroud in particular, the way he seems to command his huddle and play with a calm but commanding demeanor is easy to see. “I don’t think leadership has an age,” Stroud said. “It’s something that’s in you. I didn’t come in demanding respect. I came in wanting to earn it.”
Jordan Love is passing every test. In the first seven series of the Saints-Packers home-opener for Green Bay Sunday, Jordan Love went 0-for-7 in productivity. Four punts, two failed fourth-down conversions and an interception, all in the game’s first 47 minutes. These are the times that try a quarterback’s soul—and the times a quarterback has to just forget it and move on to the next series.
Love will be linked to Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers forever, or at least as long as he’s the Packers’ quarterback, the third in a 32-season line of quarterbacks that have kept the Packers relevant for a third of a century. At least early in his career, Love has something in common with Favre and Rodgers: they’ve all beaten the Bears, and they’ve been good (mostly) in crunch time when needed.
In the final 13 minutes, Love went field goal-TD-TD, capping the last drive with clutch completions to Jayden Reed and Romeo Doubs to pull out an 18-17 win. His 30-yard throw up the seam for Reed was a great throw and better catch; his eight-yard throw to Doubs was perfectly placed.
“I didn’t feel nervous at all,” Love said from the Packers’ locker room. “I just stayed even, trusted the team and trusted what we were doing and kept pounding away. That’s what everyone did. When you’re down like that you gotta make plays, and everyone was confident we would. I could feel it.”
Interesting, the similarities (other than accuracy) in the first three Packer starts of the last three starting quarterbacks:
Love’s got miles to go before he sleeps, of course. But he’s started well. Most importantly, he’s been cool when the games get hot. That’s something you’d better be able to do in the NFL or you won’t last long.
The best day a kicker ever had. This is Matt Gay’s fifth NFL season, and he’s had a nice early career. But entering Sunday, he’d been close to average (17 of 23, 74 percent) in field-goal tries from 50 and beyond. That all changed in Baltimore Sunday. He made 54-, 53-, 53-, and 53-yard field goals, all after halftime, to lead the Colts past Baltimore 22-19. Gay’s the first kicker to hit four field goals of 50 yards or more in a game, ever.
What impressed me: Under big pressure late in overtime, Gay’s last field goal was so perfect that if there’d been a stake rising straight up from the middle of the crossbar, his kick would have shtoinked it. Beautiful, straight down the middle, with plenty to spare.
“I didn’t see it,” he said from the Colts’ locker room. “I kind of just blacked out when I kicked it. I’ll go back and watch it, but if it was right down the middle, that’s pretty cool.”
Good kickers, I’ve found, don’t ever think they’ve done something momentous when they make a big kick, or even four of them. If you’re looking for great drama or great quotes, don’t go to kickers.
Gay was exactly like that post-game. A flatliner. Just did my job. Emotions don’t help kickers. “Those four kicks, honestly, didn’t feel any different,” he said. “I’m not really thinking too much about anything else. I like to have my mind free.”
Re: the record, he said: “You get your name in the record book, it’s pretty cool. It’ll probably hit me later. More than anything—the records, the numbers—I really like just being able to give my team a win after they’ve fought so hard to win an important game.” Sounds like a good guy to have on your team.
It’s hard not to root for guys like Josh Dobbs. Follow this: Dobbs started starting at quarterback 22 years ago, when he was 6 years old. “The Alpharetta Eagles,” he said from the Cardinals locker room Sunday. “That was my first team. I kept going from there, went to Alpharetta High, started all the time, went to Tennessee, started midway through my freshman year and then for the rest of my time there. All those years playing, then I got drafted behind a Hall of Fame quarterback in Pittsburgh [Ben Roethlisberger] in 2017, and your life changes when you get to the NFL.”
Entering Sunday’s game, Dobbs had started two games in Tennessee last year and the first two this year in Arizona … 0-4. So it’s hard to imagine what goes through the mind of Josh Dobbs, on the one-month anniversary of his trade from Cleveland to Arizona, when he completes 17 of 21 passes for a career-high 81 percent, manages six scoring drives in nine possessions against a team that entered the game as the NFC’s best in 2023, with the most fearsome pass-rusher in the game. Cards 28, Cowboys 16. First win of Dobbs’ professional life—in year seven since being drafted.
“I am proud of my performance,” said Dobbs, who once thought he wanted to be an astronaut, not a quarterback. And you could hear the pride in his voice. “I’m actually more proud of the team and how we all played, not just me. We started fast, played complementary football, started the second half rough with a three-and-out and six-and-out, then came back with a four-play touchdown drive when we really needed it to clinch the game. It’s Jonathan Gannon’s first win as a head coach, and Drew Petzing’s first win as an offensive coordinator, so a lot of firsts for a lot of people—they get to enjoy it the same as I do.
“And I am going to appreciate it, a lot. This league, man, it’s so crazy. It’s a league of opportunity. Across the league, you see guys who’ve been waiting months, years to play. The only way you can have a real chance to play and keep playing is to focus on the moment, live in the moment. This is a great reward for that.”
How amazing is the story of Puka Nacua, the 177th pick in this year’s draft? A primer on the Rams’ rookie flanker entering Nacua’s third NFL game tonight against the Bengals in Cincinnati:
“I come from a big family,” Nacua told me. (You can hear my conversation with him on The Peter King Podcast, which will post late Tuesday.)
“I have five brothers and one sister. At a very little age, all my siblings were playing sports, football and basketball. My earliest memory is me being a tackling dummy in the backyard for my older brothers. I had all the pads on. My brothers were just running drills. My dad’s got us lining up drills in the backyard, and I’m just getting hit left and right. My dad was my first football coach. My older brother Samson was the starting quarterback for our team. I’m three years younger than him, and these guys were a lot bigger than me. But I’m playing left tackle.”
Moving to wide receiver in eighth grade, Nacua got to be a highly recruited player out of Orem, Utah, and went to Washington. After two years there, Nacua transferred to Brigham Young to be closer to his mom—his grandmother got ovarian cancer, prompting the move—and he played his last two seasons at BYU. He caught 91 balls in two seasons, but he ran a 4.57 40-yard dash. Just as Cooper Kupp (4.6-ish speed) dropped in the draft, scouts thought Nacua, though big enough at 6-2, wouldn’t have the speed to separate off the line of scrimmage.
Good thing the Rams are not slaves to the stopwatch. When they saw Nacua at the Senior Bowl, they saw a quick-twitch receiver who, contrary to college reports that viewed him as struggling to get free at the snap, was killing corners in one-on-one release drills at the line. So they picked him with the last pick of the fifth round. No one noticed.
When the Rams saw Nacua, I believe they thought they were seeing Kupp Jr. Both are 6-2 and weigh around 207. Both are highly competitive. Both evade well coming off the line. Kupp is 30, Nacua 23. Kupp’s starting to get banged around and miss games. It won’t be surprising if Nacua becomes Kupp II. So far, he’s working like Kupp. When Nacua got to the Rams for spring practices, he crammed in the classroom with Peetz, and took advantage of time before and after the long OTA days.
“I wasn’t sure if I’m gonna make the team,” he said. “I just know I gotta show up to the facility every day and prove that I belong here. After we’re getting done with practice, or the rookie workouts and our meetings, I’d just head right to coach Peetz’s office. He said we were sitting down. It started the simplest it could be, like hey you’re the Z, the Y, the F, the X, this is where they all line up for us. We’re going, drawing it up, as simple as it could be on the white board. I really do thank coach Peetz and our staff, [receivers] coach [Eric Yarber] and the list goes on and on of guys who’ve been in those rooms to be able to help me so I could go out there and play full speed.”
The chemistry between quarterback Matthew Stafford and Kupp was crucial in the Rams’ Super Bowl run in 2021. There’s similar chemistry, borne of necessity, between Stafford and Nacua. Of course Nacua looks to the 35-year-old Stafford for signs. Am I okay? Did I do that right? “We’ll have eye contact,” Nacua said, “and he’ll just kind of give a nod of affirmation or a nod of acknowledgement and that’s always good enough for me. If he gives me a thumbs up, I feel really good. If he just gives me the quick nod, I did good enough.”
So far, it’s very good enough. Tonight, Nacua’s expected to gut it out with an oblique injury. It’ll be the first chance for America to see the NFL’s next young star.
Buddy Teevens, the football coach at Dartmouth, 66, died Thursday from injuries suffered in a bicycle accident last March. You may wonder why an Ivy League football coach deserves your attention. It’s because he’s one of the most significant coaches in the recent history of the game for his work on three fronts: player safety and caring for his players, giving women entry into this male bastion of a game, and his work with 1,200 youth players annually running the Manning Passing Academy.
Far and away, the player safety element is most important. In 2010, Teevens pledged to stop player-on-player tackling in practice, a vow he kept for the last 13 years of his coaching career. After becoming the first NCAA FBS or FCS coach to hire a full-time female coach in 2018, he had a woman on his staff annually; former Dartmouth aides Callie Brownson and Jennifer King are now full-time assistant running backs coaches in Cleveland and Washington, respectively. He organized every detail for 1,200 players and 120 counselor coaches each summer at Manning Passing Academy. “I don’t know how we run this camp without Buddy,” a glum Peyton Manning said Friday.
“His death is a tragedy,” said friend and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. “But his life was not a tragedy. His life was a gift.”
Most importantly, I believe, is something all coaches should hear, and hear with an exclamation point: Teevens’ teams were far better when they were the safest team in college football. In his first five seasons in his second stint as Dartmouth coach, from 2005 to 2009, his teams were 9-41; alarmed about the long-term head trauma in players at all levels, he decreed in 2010 that there would be no tackling of teammates in practice from then on. His next 11 teams were 79-31 and won three Ivy League titles.
The football world needs new leaders in player safety, coaches who will draw a line and say, as Teevens once said: “I love football, but I love my players more.”
The importance of Buddy Teevens to the sport of football, in the words of those he influenced:
Former Harvard football player; CEO, Concussion Legacy Foundation
“No one in football has stuck his neck out more to prevent CTE [the brain-trauma disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy] than Buddy Teevens. He went further than anyone. He said, you come to Dartmouth and you’ll never tackle a teammate in practice.
“I am worried that no other coach will replace him and take the issue as seriously. That’s a big reason why his loss is profound. He’s the only coach I know who wanted to know which of his former players had CTE. There were three that I know of. Each time it broke his heart.
“To me, his legacy is that we can play football without exploiting the players. We can play football by putting the players first. I just hope a high-profile coach follows him.”
Dartmouth offensive quality control coach, 2018; Current assistant coach, Cleveland Browns
“I interned with the Jets in personnel in 2017. There were no females on the sidelines then. And when that internship ended, the well ran dry. I was in a crisis time. What am I going to do with my life?
“The Manning Passing Academy was going to have a clinic for girls and women, and I got called for it. I got this email from coach Teevens. ‘Here’s the position group you’d be coaching.’ He wanted to know my practice plan for a two-hour practice. So I sent it to him. We sort of mapped out how the practice would run. Later, I got a call from this California number. It’s Buddy. He says, ‘This may sound crazy. I enjoyed working with you. Would you be able to come up and intern with us during preseason camp at Dartmouth?’ Of course I did it. I learned so much.
“The night before I’m supposed to fly home, Buddy stands up in front of the team. He says, ‘With Callie, this is what she wants to do with her life. She can help us win. I want to offer her a position.’ I had no idea this was coming. I went numb. Everything I wanted in this world was coming true. My life was changing, and it was all because of this guy. So that fall, I was doing opponent breakdown, self-scout, scripts for practice, you name it. I was in charge of my defensive scout team, making it as close as possible to what the opposing defense was going to look like that week.
“That wasn’t it. He gave me projects. He said, ‘Do a deep dive into explosive plays all over college football, and we’ll study them to see what we can learn.’ He always wanted to evolve.
“He knew when he hired me -- I was the first female coach in college football -- it might be seen as a PR stunt. You know, speculation and doubt, how it would be portrayed. He couldn’t bring on a coach who couldn’t do the work. He was very intentional in making sure I had a role with real responsibilities. If he was going to bring in a female, she’d have to earn her keep. I just didn’t want to let Buddy down. He gave everything he had to me, so I wanted to prove him right.
“Honestly, his life purpose wasn’t just coaching. It was protecting the game he loved so much. Protecting, preserving, advancing the game, in terms of safety, caring and giving opportunities to women. He changed the trajectory of my career. He didn’t care what his colleagues thought. It sent a big message. This year, at the Scouting Combine, we had about 50 women there with jobs in football, and Buddy is a huge reason why.
“When I left Dartmouth [for jobs with Buffalo and Cleveland], after almost every game, he’d text me. After a win, congrats, keep it up, with a yellow thumbs-up emoji. After a loss, the sun’s coming up tomorrow, with a yellow thumbs-up emoji.
“I’ve been thinking about him so much. I know I have a mission now in my life: Carry on his legacy.”
NFL commissioner; Dad of two Dartmouth students; Friend of Teevens
“Buddy was bold. He did things other programs wouldn’t do—cultural changes, technical changes, creating a tackling machine. I went up to Dartmouth and watched practice. It’s not like they weren’t tackling, or practicing tackling. They were—just not on each other. It wasn’t man on man. It was man on machine. It just showed how much he cared about his players. But it wasn’t just the safety aspect. He was a leader in bringing women into the game. He knew we could and should bring women into significant positions in the game. They have the knowledge. They belong. That’s a huge part of his contribution.
“He changed the game. You don’t have to be a Power Five coach to change the game.
“Buddy’s the coach you wanted your son to play for. He just loved coaching. We were at the Super Bowl a couple of years ago, in a car, on our way to a clinic. We got close, and he jumped out of the car, started fixing the cones and coaching the players. He was in heaven—you could just see how much he loved working with the kids.
“No doubt right now he’s up in heaven, coaching someone.”
Dartmouth linebacker, 2015-’19; All-Ivy League, 2017, ’18, ‘19
“When I heard about the tackling restrictions [at practice], I was super skeptical. But I got to Dartmouth in 2015, and they had one of the best defenses in the league in 2014. They were so focused on the technique, and making sure your hands and your feet were always in the right position. The overall idea was super beneficial to learning to tackle properly. We would devote 15, 20 minutes of every two-hour practice to tackling technique—like, a sixth of every practice. So we were prepared … make sure your hands, your feet were always in the right position.”
(Over Trainer’s five seasons, Dartmouth had the stingiest defense in the Ivy League, giving up 15.2 points per game and winning two league titles.)
“My senior year , we only lost one game. That year, I tore my PCL in a game and missed the last two games. I was the only starter out of 22 players to miss any time due to injury. You can attribute that to a lot of things, not solely because [of the lack of] tackles, but I would bet that had a lot to do with it.
“The other thing I would say about Buddy is he made the whole college experience so good. He took a genuine and serious interest in every single player—from the captain to the last guy on the bench. It’s impossible for every player on the team to agree with every football decision that’s made. But I think everyone would say they got a good experience at Dartmouth, because Buddy made sure he was concerned about you as a person and a player. In my life now, I‘m just trying to be more like him, caring about everyone I come in contact with.”
Hall of Fame quarterback; Manning Passing Academy senior director
“We started the camp in 1996 at Tulane when Buddy was the head coach there. He said no matter where I am, I’ll do this camp as long as you want me. As it grew, it got to be 1,200 players and 120 counselors, and Buddy would call the roll every day. He was the most organized, disciplined person I have met in my life. He’d say, ‘Wide receiver group 8, north end of field 12 with, you know, X quarterback.’ A couple years ago I met Jordan Davis, this famous country singer. He said, ‘I was a quarterback from Shreveport, and I came to your camp, and Philip Rivers was my counselor.’ I said, ‘We coached you right into country music.’ Buddy used to love those stories. The camp has had meaning for so many people.
“After a few years, when we talked, he really started to progress in his thinking about player safety. He’d tell us, ‘There’s got to be a better way. You can be an excellent tackling team without tackling in practice.’ He wouldn’t want to hear the old school, this is how we get our toughness. Their tackling got better when he made that big change.
“We paid tribute to him at the camp last year, when he wasn’t there after his accident. We owe him so much. Football owes him so much. He’ll be missed by everybody who met him.”
Dartmouth safety, 2006-’09; L.A. Rams VP, Football and Business Administration
“When he died, my mom texted me: ‘Buddy was every mother’s dream coach. We were so blessed to have him in your life.’
“I was a quarterback-safety from Minneapolis, being recruited by Columbia, Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Dartmouth. I went on a visit to Dartmouth and me and my parents sat in Buddy’s office for two hours or so. He never once talked about football. ‘What do you want to do with your life?’ That’s what he asked. I wanted to work in professional sports. He says hold on, and he gets Jimmie Lee Solomon on the phone with me. Jimmie Lee Solomon played football at Dartmouth, and at that time he was an executive in Major League Baseball. He said to me, ‘If Buddy signs off on your character, you’ll get a shot somewhere in sports.’
“At one point that day, my mom says to Buddy, ‘Are you for real?’
“He says, ‘What do you mean?’
“She says, ‘Everyone else talks football only. You talk about life. Why aren’t you talking about the team, his role?’
“He says, ‘There’s more to life than football. I want to recruit young men who can change the world.’
“When I left Dartmouth, I got a job with the Rams. Buddy was ecstatic. ‘That’s what you came here to do!’ Talk about life coming full circle.
“The last time I saw him was at the Super Bowl last year in Arizona. He got to put on my Super Bowl ring. He was just absolutely beaming with pride. Just so proud. He said to me, ‘Are these real diamonds?’”
A recurring element in the column this year: a video memory of a favorite story from my 40 years covering pro football.
The stories are not always nice. In December 2012, a young linebacker for Kansas City, Jovan Belcher, murdered his girlfriend, then drove to the team’s training complex next to Arrowhead Stadium and, with GM Scott Pioli and coach Romeo Crennel trying to calm him down, raised a gun to his head and shot himself. The murder-suicide shocked the NFL and the country. In the wake of it, one of the team leaders, quarterback Brady Quinn, talked to me about the tragedy. His words left an imprint on me:
Offensive players of the week
So many huge offensive days. How do you pick?
Joshua Dobbs, quarterback, Arizona. Last week, Dobbs had everything going for a half, cruising to a 20-0 lead over the Giants. Arizona collapsed in the second half and lost. This week, he finished the job. Talking to him post-game, you remember this game is so rewarding for 1,696 players, the number of players 1-to-53 on all the rosters, and not just the big stars. Guys like Dobbs—who completed 81 percent of his throws against a voracious Dallas front in a 28-16 win—deserve their day in the sun.
De’Von Achane, running back, Miami. Explanation above. Addendum to one of the great individual days in Dolphins history, 233 scrimmage yards and four TDs (one electric): Miami won explosively without Jaylen Waddle, and with all wide receivers not named Tyreek Hill catching a total of four passes. This is a deep, deep team.
Keenan Allen, wide receiver, L.A. Chargers. The best day of a very good NFL career lifted the Chargers to a frenetic, nutty 28-24 win over the Vikings in a game both teams had to have. The day: 18 catches, 215 yards, one TD.
Defensive player of the week
Myles Garrett, defensive end, Cleveland. Garrett would be in this space if the Cleveland-Tennessee game had been 30 minutes long, not 60. Garrett had 2.5 sacks in the first two quarters as the Browns built a 13-3 halftime lead. Per NFL NextGen Stats, Garrett had six pressures, with an average get-off time of 0.62 seconds. Get-off time is the time, post-snap, that it takes for the defender to get past the line of scrimmage. For context, 0.75 is considered elite. When you combine Garrett’s great skill with the shaky Tennessee tackle (Andre Dillard) trying to contain him, it’s a recipe for Tennessee disaster. For the day, Garrett finished with 3.5 sacks and eight pressures, one of the great games of his ascending career.
Special teams players of the week
Matt Gay, kicker, Indianapolis. One of the great days an NFL placekicker has ever had boosted the Colts to a big upset in Baltimore. Gay kicked four field goals of 53 yards or longer, including the overtime game-winner. The big ones: a 54-yarder to put the Colts up 13-7, a 53-yarder to put the Colts up 16-14, a 53-yarder to tie it up 19-19, and, finally, a 53-yarder to win in overtime, 22-19. It’s the first time ever that a kicker’s made four field goals of 50 yards or longer in a game.
Rashid Shaheed, punt-returner/receiver, New Orleans. Early in the second quarter at Green Bay, this emerging offensive star for the Saints took a Packer punt at his 24-yard line, zipped up the left seam, broke to the right and scored without being touched. Not bad, running 76 yards and no defender put a hand on him.
Will Anderson Jr., defensive end, Houston. Rarely do you see a field goal or PAT blocked with both hands, but that’s what the third pick in the 2023 draft did. Anderson found a crease in the middle of the Jaguar line, burst through it, and two-hand-stuffed a 51-yard field-goal try from Jacksonville’s Brandon McManus. Big momentum swing here. Instead of the Jags cutting the lead to 7-3, Houston took the ball and drove 41 yards for a touchdown to go ahead 14-0.
Coaches of the Week
Mike McDaniel, head coach, Miami. He’s invented the most explosive offense in the game over the first month of the season, and that included the kind of play most coaches might design in their dreams but not actually call in a game. Second-and-goal from the Denver four-yard line, 10 minutes left in the first half. McDaniel put Tyreek Hill in circle motion from the left, with Hill designed to sprint behind the backfield. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa took the snap, stared at oncoming motion-man Hill, and shoveled a no-look pass up the gut to running back De’Von Achane, who snuck in for an easy touchdown. No-look shovel pass in the tight red zone. Whoa. McDaniel’s one dangerous offensive mind.
DeMeco Ryans, head coach, Houston. The first win of his NFL head-coaching career, a big upset of the division favorites in Jacksonville, was never in question. That sounds crazy, but the feisty and hungry Texans controlled this game totally for the first half, saw the Jags make it close in the third quarter, then blew out Jacksonville with three TDs in the last 20 minutes. Offensively, defensively and on special teams, this under-construction team took a giant step with the 37-17 win in Florida.
Goats of the Week
Minnesota clock management. The situation: Vikings with a fourth-and-five, down 28-24, at the Chargers’ 15-yard line with 41 seconds left in the fourth quarter. They gain nine on a Kirk Cousins pass, making it first-and-goal at the six-. As T.J. Hockenson begins to rise, the clock shows 37 seconds. First down. No timeouts left. Obvious, clear, no-doubt play here is to spike the ball. Tick tick tick tick … :31, :30, :29 … Cousins is trying to listen to the speaker in his helmet, and both he and coach Kevin O’Connell say later the stadium noise was too loud for Cousins to hear. Cousins gestures, then gestures agitatedly … Get to the line and spike it for crying out loud! Clearly, the quarterback has to realize that even with the seconds coming off the clock, the only play here is to spike it. For some reason, Cousins waits and waits … :26, :25 … Still trying to figure out what to do … Vikings get to the line … :18, :17, :16 … Cousins hurrying now, looking unsure … Ball is snapped at :12. Tipped interception at the goal line, picked by Charger linebacker Kenneth Murray. I mean, that’s the worst clock management I’ve seen in forever. The Vikings could have spiked the ball with 32 seconds left, had 30 seconds left with second-and-goal. Against a D that they’d strafed for 475 yards to that point, Cousins would have had three chances to get the ball in the end zone. But no. Panic City instead, and the Vikings are 0-3.
Gutless officiating in Baltimore. Totally gutless in the Colts-Ravens game. Baltimore had a fourth-and-three at the Indy 47-yard line with 3:25 left in OT and Lamar Jackson threw a short one over the middle to Zay Flowers. But as the ball approached, Colts linebacker E.J. Speed hooked Flowers and clearly interfered with his chance to make the catch. It appeared to me that this call should have been the side judge’s call, but I’m sure smarter people in the league office will dissect this one closely, because some official—quite possibly side judge Lo van Pham—had responsibility on Clete Blakeman’s crew to see what everyone watching this game saw: that the outcome of the game was influenced significantly on a non-call by the officials.
--Garett Bolles, Denver tackle, in the locker room after the 70-20 loss to Miami.
--Jets coach Robert Saleh on Zach Wilson, who was dreadful again Sunday in the 15-10 loss to the Patriots.
That statement just can’t be true.
--Joe Namath, on social media Sunday, after the Jets lost toothlessly to the Patriots.
--Green Bay coach Matt LaFleur, after the Packers rallied from a 17-0 deficit in the fourth quarter to win 18-17 over the Saints.
--Scott Hanson, on the NFL RedZone Channel, as the Fox telecast showed Taylor Swift in a box with Travis Kelce’s mother.
So it’s true!
The Giants’ scoring by quarters in 2023:
0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 14, 17, 3, 3, 6, 0.
Seems like a 1-2 record is more than appropriate.
Today is John Lynch’s 52nd birthday. You may know that the current Niners’ GM threw the first pitch in the history of the Miami (nee Florida) Marlins organization, for the Single-A Erie Sailors in the summer of 1992 … and went on to do some football things of note.
Interesting note about Lynch. He was a higher draft pick in baseball than he was in football.
Lynch: 66th overall pick in the 1992 MLB Draft; 82nd pick in the 1993 NFL Draft.
Looks like he chose careers wisely. The Niners extended the contracts of Lynch, the San Francisco GM, and coach Kyle Shanahan on Friday. They’re in their seventh season piloting one of the best teams in the NFL.
Speaking of age:
The Notre Dame quarterback you saw on Saturday night, Sam Hartman, is 24 years, 2 months old, born on July 29, 1999.
Zach Wilson, in his third struggling NFL season with the New York Jets, was born five days later.
ARLINGTON, Texas—One of the coolest times in recent Red Sox history (yes, I’m a partisan) was the 2018 World Series, Sox-Dodgers, with one of the most interesting games in history: the 3-2 Dodgers’ victory in 18 innings in game three at Dodger Stadium. Remember? Boston’s Nate Eovaldi, pitching with one day of rest, unheard of in this pitch-count sport, threw six innings of two-hit relief to keep the game close. On the first batter of his seventh inning of work and the game’s 18th, Eovaldi gave up a home run to Max Muncy to win the game. Longest game in post-season history: 7 hours, 20 minutes. It was 12:30 a.m. in L.A., 3:30 a.m. on the East Coast. The Red Sox, countering the Dodgers’ bludgeoning momentum, went on to win games four and five in L.A. and won the Series on that Sunday night in Dodger Stadium.
I’ve wanted to say a couple of things to Eovaldi ever since that series, not that either would matter to him, but I just wanted to say them. Wednesday, before Red Sox-Rangers at Globe Life Field, was my chance.
Eovaldi, genial and friendly, walked out of the Rangers clubhouse in the bowels of the stadium an hour before Wednesday’s game. “I appreciate you letting me take a couple of minutes to tell you this,” I said.
I told him I was flying to L.A. the night of game three (I was going to cover Packers-Rams in L.A. Sunday), didn’t have wifi, game three was still going on when I landed, and it was still going on when I checked into the L.A. Airport Marriott, and a few minutes after I walked into my room, Muncy hit the home run.
What really stuck out to me, I said, was what happened the next morning. I read in SI, from Tom Verducci, that Eovaldi, just hours after the game, went to manager Alex Cora in the team hotel and said he was available to pitch that night in game four.
Maybe it’s the kid in me, the fan in me. But when I read that, I thought what a great thing that was. Pragmatists might say, particularly with a guy who’s had two Tommy John surgeries, that he shouldn’t push himself like that. I’d have understood that, totally.
But this was the World Series. The World Series! We’d all like to think every player would empty his tank, and then some, in the biggest games of his life—and this was the first World Series of his career. And Eovaldi told his boss, apparently, I’m here for the team.
“I thought that was fantastic,” I told him. “Says a lot about you. Was that true, what you said to Cora?”
“That’s right,” he said. “Told him I’m good to go. Told him, ‘If you need me, I’m available. We got two games more to win, and we’re world champions.’ He was like, ‘Ha ha, I don’t think I’m gonna do that.’”
This is one of those times when I wish you could have heard Eovaldi the way I heard him for 15 minutes—the passion in his voice, the love of the game, the appreciation for the chance to pitch on the biggest stage in the sport. At one point he had a very slightly incredulous tone in his voice when I asked about pitching so much in a concentrated period—and then warming up to come into game five, which didn’t happen, but he was ready if called. It’s the only World Series I’ve played in, he said. The highest moment of my career, he said.
“It’s why you play the game,” Eovaldi said.
I shook his hand, told him I appreciated what he’d done, we took a photo, and said I hope he gets back to a second one. For me, a fun experience in a life of fun ones.
Reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
HE WHO SHALL NOT BE NAMED. From Michael Conrad: “I love your column and look forward to it every Monday. Is there any chance that the upcoming column will have no mention of Aaron Rodgers?”
Just this one.
CORRECT, AND THANK YOU. From James Jay: “Please be advised that the NFL CANNOT flex the Jets/Broncos Week 5 game back to the early slot. This is because the game is in Denver, and the NFL does not schedule games to kick off in the morning, which in this case would be 11 a.m.”
Correct—the NFL wouldn’t move the game to the early window. My error in suggesting it could. But the league could make New York-Denver a regional game, with Kansas City-Minnesota (also in the late window at 4:25 p.m.) the dominant doubleheader game.
EXCELLENT ALTERNATIVE POINT. From Anthony Curran, of Centereach, N.Y.: “Given the very real barriers you cited to replacing all of the NFL turf fields with grass, wouldn’t it be a more realistic and potentially beneficial ask for the NFLPA to demand that the last four teams using slit-film turf (Bengals, Colts, Saints, Vikings) to replace it with the safer monofilament turf?”
In trying to find middle ground on the turf-grass argument, this is likely the best alternative. Thanks for pointing it out, Anthony.
I REMEMBER THAT GUY. From Pappy Gibson: “Re Puka Nacua and Cooper Kupp dropping in their respective NFL Draft because they were considered too slow: Reminds me of another receiver who was considered too slow, the 117th pick in his draft. I think his name was Steve Largent.”
Wish I’d thought of that, Pappy. Great point. Thanks for making it.
ON THE G-MEN. From Daniel Colasurdo: “Daniel Jones had the one of the greatest halves of football for a QB in the HISTORY of the game, granted against the Cardinals, and nary a mention?”
Cool thing to do, and Jones did play heroically in the second half at Arizona. I don’t know what it means. The Giants got outscored 60-0 in the first game and a half of the season, were down 28-7 to what will probably be the worst team in football in 2023, and rallied to win the game. If you’re going to celebrate Jones going TD-TD-TD-TD-field goal in the second half, don’t you have to balance that by noting that against a bad team he went punt-punt-punt-interception-end of half in the first half?
1. I think there was certainly too much hype about Chicago, a team with major questions entering the season. But the issues that have surfaced in the first three weeks have shocked the system. We’ll certainly find out more about the departure of defensive coordinator Alan Williams for good last week; it may be sordid, but until we have the real story, I’ll reserve judgment. The story needs to be discovered, by the way; some may view it as Williams’ private business, but when his private business, whatever it is, interferes with a team that’s essentially a public trust, the public certainly has a right to know what happened here. The biggest issue is the future of Justin Fields. He’s an electric player, certainly. But what he hasn’t proven in 2.2 seasons is his ability to consistently make plays and drives from the pocket. He may do that, but I’m skeptical—as it seems is most of Chicagoland. So if this disaster of a season continues in the same way, you’ve got to think about a few things.
2. I think, watching De’Von Achane run it for the Dolphins Sunday, I thought: Miami doesn’t have to trade for Jonathan Taylor. And the Dolphins shouldn’t. They should use their cap and draft capital elsewhere on a talent-rich roster.
3. I think I found this interesting:
4. I think talking heads are talking heads, and I have been one at some points in my career, and I’m sure lots of people treated some of the things I’ve said with disdain. That’s the business. But I was taken aback by something Lee Corso said on ESPN Saturday. He called the Oregon State-Washington State game “The No One Watches Bowl.” Three questions for Corso: Would you have said that if the game was televised by ESPN, instead of Fox? (Absolutely not.) Did you know that 2.28 million people watched Washington State beat Wisconsin this month, which is more than watched ESPN Sunday NFL Countdown and ESPN Sunday Night Baseball—combined—the previous week? (Of course not.) And more importantly, how can you rip a game from a conference that ESPN and Fox helped render defunct by strengthening the SEC and Big Ten and neutering the Pac 12, a game with two Top-25 teams? (I would make a “No One Watches Bowl” crack about a guy who had two winning seasons in 10 years at almighty Indiana, but it’s better to say: You’re kidding, right?) Of course Ohio State-Notre Dame was going to dominate the Saturday prime-time ratings, but that was a bush-league knock on a good football game. Good for the Washington State coach, Jake Dickert, for calling out Corso.
5. I think if you’ve been dizzy watching how the Patriots have handled their quarterback depth chart in the last four weeks, you’re not alone. Twenty-five days, 12 moves:
New England employed seven quarterbacks, total, in 25 days. The Patriots have four under contract now—well, check today’s transactions before you take that to the bank—with Jones, Zappe and Grier active, and Cunningham on the practice squad.
You know what sticks out to me? Churning the bottom of the roster. Bill Belichick’s always done it. He knows a couple of the least-noted roster decisions every year have a good chance of coming back to win or lose a game (or games) for your team.
6. I think I’m not exactly sure what this means, but I don’t think it’s good: The Giants got a slot receiver in free agency from the Colts, Parris Campbell. He had four injurious and underwhelming seasons in Indy, but the Giants were high on him and thought he’d have a valuable role in Brian Daboll’s offense. Through three games, he’s caught 11 balls. Yardage on each: 2, 9, 7, 6, minus-1, 4, 2, 7, 7, 2, 2. Eleven catches, 47 yards, 4.3 yards per catch. That’s … not good. Zero catches for 10 yards or more in three games. Campbell’s a symptom of what ails the Giants: Daniel Jones barely has time to throw, always has to throw short, and because the compressed defenses don’t have to respect the deep ball, they’re on top of receivers as soon as they catch a pass.
7. I think I have no idea how long Deebo Samuel can last playing the physical style he plays—great job by Amazon Thursday night finding the old Mark Bavaro-carrying-Ronnie Lott clip, and comparing it to Samuel versus the Giants—but I doubt he makes it through 17 games playing that way.
8. I think, as I said on Mike Florio’s PFT show Friday, that it seems there’s a bunch of people who don’t buy Brock Purdy and who await his failure. You’ll be waiting for a while. Why can’t people accept the fact that Purdy—who has played more than three quarters in 11 NFL games, and is 11-0 in those games—should not be defined by the fact that he was the last pick in the 2022 draft? His passing line in those 11 games: .669 completion rate, 2,021 yards, 20 TDs, 3 INTs, 102.3 rating.
9. I think I’m not saying Purdy’s going to be Mahomes. What I am saying is, where’s the evidence he’s going to fall to earth?
10. I think these are my other thoughts of the week:
a. I’d love to see some of you, a bunch of you, at the annual Write on Sports gala on Tuesday, Oct. 3, in Jersey City, N.J. That’s my charity of choice, a youth-literacy 501c3 that emphasizes reading and writing skills for middle- and high-school students, using sports as a helpful spur. Here’s the site for info. Donations to this excellent cause, of course, are welcome.
b. Our media honoree this year is ESPN’s Louis Riddick, who so richly deserves plaudits for not only being who he is in the business, but how he got there. Riddick was not a big star in his eight NFL seasons, starting 10 games at safety for the Bill Belichick Browns and Atlanta and Oakland. Lots of former players make their way into TV, but many are either famous or are quarterbacks with names, and Riddick was neither. But he was smart, worked like crazy, and used his time in football as a springboard into the media life. I’m looking forward to Riddick in the room in Jersey City next week, because he’ll be a person who will inspire so many kids who need a touch of inspiration.
c. Thanks for considering donating to the program. I guarantee you it helps kids in need of academic boosts.
d. Story of the Week: Former President Jimmy Carter, on the verge of turning 99, is in his seventh month in hospice, and Peter Baker of The New York Times has a terrific look at Carter now.
e. What a life. What a marvelous giving life, a marvelous life of service. The end is being spent at the longtime family home in Plains, Ga., with his wife of 77 years (77!!!), Rosalynn Carter, eating peanut butter ice cream when he chooses and regularly watching his Atlanta Braves.
f. Writes Baker:
… Seven months after entering hospice care, Jimmy Carter is still hanging on, thank you very much, and is in fact heading toward his 99th birthday in just over a week. While nearly everyone, including his family, assumed that the end was imminent when he gave up full-scale medical care last winter, the farmer-turned-president has once again defied expectations.
“We thought at the beginning of this process that it was going to be in five or so days,” Jason Carter, his grandson, said in an interview, recalling the former president’s decision to check out of the hospital and go into hospice care at his home in Plains, Ga., last February. “I was down there with him in the hospital and then said goodbye. And then we thought it was going to be in that week that it was coming to the end. And it’s just now been seven months.”
Mr. Carter was already the longest-living president in American history, but his staying power even in hospice has captured the imagination of many admirers around the world. It has generated an extended farewell, one that was unplanned yet remarkably affectionate for a president who was turned out of power by voters after a single term yet transformed his legacy with decades of service that earned him the Nobel Peace Prize.
He spends his days now in the house where he and Mrs. Carter have lived since 1961, a two-bedroom, one-story rambler so plain that The Washington Post once calculated that it was worth less than the Secret Service vehicles parked out front. His children and grandchildren take turns visiting with them, and he has a crew of caregivers but has not seen a doctor in more than six months. President Biden calls from time to time to check in.
g. His house is worth less than the Secret Service vehicles parked out front. That says … a lot.
h. If you’re like me, you think of a person entering hospice, and you think of someone in the last few days of life. Maybe Ronald Acuña Jr. is great medicine. Who knows—but I turn on the news over the weekend, and see that Jimmy and Rosalynn rode in a car in the annual Peanut Parade in Plains on Saturday.
i. By the way, a note for the many of you who have written and continue to write about noting stories that are found behind paywalls: I hear you. When I feature a story that is behind a paywall, like many of those in here, I try my best to excerpt three or four paragraphs that tell the story of the story. You won’t get the depth, but you’ll get the crux of the piece. I understand you can’t subscribe to everything, and some won’t subscribe to any of the sites I use. That’s fine. But it’s not the way the business works these days.
j. Fifteen years ago, when newspapers and magazines in print form were still dominant in the landscape, most sites didn’t charge for their stories. They do now, because they have to in order to survive. Many of you used to pay $50 a year for your Sports Illustrated subscription, or $5 a week for a newspaper that came to the door seven days a week. Those days are gone. To be able to read great stories, it’s going to cost you in a different way now. And because there are so many free sites, maybe you’ll skip some of the ones with great reporters and reporting, and that’s your choice. What I try to do is expose you to some of the great things I read during the week, and if you choose to read the excerpt I put in, good; if you choose to read in full by subscribing, even better.
k. Cool event Thursday night in New York: Savannah Guthrie will host a panel at the Paley Center for Media (nee The Museum of Television and Radio) about the preparation for and history of NBC’s Sunday Night Football. Panelists: Mike Tirico, Cris Collinsworth, Melissa Stark, coordinating producer Rob Hyland, director Drew Esocoff. And you can go. Should be informative and fun.
l. Ex-Sportswriter Story of the Week: Longtime Jets beat man Gerald Eskenazi of The New York Times (he covered lots of sports for the paper over the years), writing an interesting column in The Wall Street Journal about age-ism in an age with an exploding number of 80-somethings who are still active in society.
m. Or is it “agism”?
n. Eskenazi, soon to be 87 and living in New York City, says, “Don’t call me ‘old man.’” He writes:
I don’t know when it first happened, but people on the street make room for me. I even walked to the front of the line at the Museum of Natural History and no one batted an eye. Young people smile at me. After all, I’m harmless, right?
Still, I am angered when people point to age as the reason for a problem, as if a younger person can’t be a poor driver or put together an incoherent sentence.
I’m no crusader, but in a way this has become my cause because I’m not happy when an 80-something is defined by age.
Society will have to rethink its stereotypes of aging. It is, quite simply, hurtful. I appreciate that “youngsters” hold a door open for me even if I wasn’t having trouble opening it myself or wave me into an elevator ahead of them. That’s OK but not what I want. I want them to see me as a functioning, understanding man who knows not to step onto the street while he’s looking at his cellphone to see what new texts he has.
o. Cool note from former GM and current NFL Network analyst Scott Pioli on Saturday, which was the 50th anniversary of the first football game he attended: Giants 23, Eagles 23 on a brilliant September Sunday at Yankee Stadium.
p. So I decided to ask all of you who have been to an NFL game or games: What was the first NFL game you saw—the date and the game? And give me a memory from that day. Send to email@example.com, and I’ll run some of them next week.
q. Here is the memory of Pioli, then 8 and living in the upstate community of Washingtonville, about 60 miles from Yankee Stadium:
“I’ll never forget the night we found out we had tickets. We could never afford to go to games, but one of my dad’s best friends, Mr. Denisco, was a truck driver who worked for a trucking company owned by [Eagles owner] Leonard Tose. On Fridays, Leonard Tose would walk around and hand out tickets to some of the truck drivers. So Mr. Denisco walked into our house and yelled, ‘Ronnie! I got four! I got four!’
“What an amazing day it was. Mr. Denisco, his son, my dad and me went. I had never seen a football game in color. Harold Carmichael caught a touchdown pass right in front of us. Pete Gogolak kicked a field goal on the last play of the game to tie it. Ron Johnson rushed for 100 yards for the Giants, and I had a Ron Johnson poster in my room. I will never forget that day.”
r. You want mine? Amazingly, it happened in the same season. I was a 16, a high-school junior. Because of a renovation to Yankee Stadium that began in October, the Giants moved their home for two seasons to Yale Bowl in New Haven, an hour from my home in northern Connecticut. My first game was Nov. 11, 1973, Giants versus Cowboys in New Haven. As I recall:
We lived in a yard with lots of trees, and we spent time on almost every fall weekend raking. I bought two tickets to the game—I think they were $6 each. I went to Saturday evening mass and still had to get my raking done Sunday morning before going. But I did, and we left for the game about 10:30.
Pretty sure we sat on wooden, splintery bleachers in this cavernous stadium. The Giants stunk. I just remember thinking, Wow. The Dallas Cowboys are playing a game in Connecticut. Roger Staubach, Calvin Hill, who went to Yale, less than two years after winning the Super Bowl. It was a fun day, seeing an NFL game an hour from my front door, but not much of a game. Staubach threw a touchdown pass and Toni Fritsch kicked three field goals, one from 13 yards. And that was my first NFL game.
s. What’s yours? firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks.
t. The baseball MVP races are interesting this year, particularly in the National League. I don’t know that the Orioles have a singular most valuable player, so I’d probably still give it to Shohei Ohtani—44 homers, 20 steals, 3.14 ERA in 23 starts, 167 strikeouts in 132 innings pitched—despite missing the last month.
u. In the NL, I value Mookie Betts for his versatility in a time of Dodger needs (he’s started, as of Saturday, 55 games at second and 12 at shortstop) as much as his 39 homers and .996 OPS. A vote for Betts and his great value all over the diamond is fair. I’d probably vote for Ronald Acuña who, at 25, is one of the great marvels in sports today. As of Saturday, he led the league in runs (143), hits (209), steals (68) and OPS (1.013), with 40 homers and 101 RBI.
v. Acuna is the first player ever to have at least 40 homers and 50 steals in a season. And he might end up with a 40-70 season. That’s so insane, even with the new base size. Bases are three inches wider this season, so the distance to steal a base is six inches shorter than the traditional 90 feet. I’m sure there’s some metric that says it’s added X number of stolen bases to his total, and if you want to say, okay, maybe he’d only have 55 without the base change, fine. Hard to argue, though, that he’d at least be a 40-50 guy, the first ever, if the bases hadn’t been expanded.
w. Happy 61st (Thursday), Irving Fryar, the first pick in the 1984 NFL Draft.
x. Kudos to Rick Cordella for being named the next president of NBC Sports, succeeding Pete Bevacqua. Cordella’s a terrific guy, exceedingly smart and progressive, and he’ll handle the changing landscape of sports rights and sports in general well. On a personal note, Sam Flood was the person most responsible for me making the move full-time to NBC five years ago. Cordella was an effective recruiter too. I’ll always be grateful to both.
y. Attaway, Pete Abraham (of the Boston Globe). Like this note in his Sunday column: “Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli left the team and returned to Rhode Island to be with his wife Allie for the birth of their twin sons, Nino and Enzo, last Sunday. Yes, the manager of the Twins has twins.”
Miami at Buffalo, 1 p.m., CBS. The last time Miami won at Buffalo, Tua Tagovailoa was a senior at St. Louis High in Honolulu. Buffalo’s 9-1 in the last 10 games in the series. So Miami’s got some series-evening to do. Look on the bright (and temperate) side, Dolfans: Game’s on Oct. 1, not Jan. 1.
Baltimore at Cleveland, 1 p.m., CBS. What a schedule for the Ravens: at Cincinnati week two, at Cleveland week four, at Pittsburgh week five. Baltimore gets all of its division road games played in the first 29 days of the season. The advantage here: Maybe the Ravens get mediocre Deshaun Watson instead of back-to-good Deshaun. If Watson ever gets back to good, of course.
Kansas City at N.Y. Jets, 8:20 p.m., NBC. Now here’s an oddity. In 43 road starts over his seven NFL seasons, Patrick Mahomes has never played in the swamps of Jersey. Mahomes, debuting finally in NYC/NJ. That’s a weird one. This might not be much of a game, given the great Zach Wilson experiment with the Jets.
My Taylor Swift-loving daughter Mary Beth has a sub 5-7-5 this morning.
Thirteen equals a big win
For Travis Kelce.